Piggybacking off of Anthony's recent post concerning his lively discussion with Reza Aslan, it is noteworthy that Aslan attempts to validate his thesis of Jesus the ‘zealot’ (an anachronistic label for a rebel in Jesus' historical context, as Aslan acknowledges – begging the question of the book’s title) with the 'fact' of Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus' life is made to fit his end. He was executed in the manner reserved for violent insurrectionists; therefore, he was a violent insurrectionist. This is a basic shared line of argument for theses similar to Aslan's reaching all the way back to H. S. Reimarus. Consequently, Jesus' crucifixion is used as a criterion for eliminating 'inauthentic' gospel material that portrays Jesus as fundamentally nonviolent (e.g. Mark 14:48; Matt 5:9, 26:52; Matt 5:39-44= Luke 6:29-6:35).
This move ignores the breadth of offenses for which individuals were crucified. Not only was crucifixion carried out as a form of punishment and deterrence for violent offenses such as insurrection, banditry, and murder but also for nonviolent forms of sedition such as defamation of the emperor (e.g. Suetonius, Domitian 10.1; Quintillian, Institutio Oratoria 9.2.65), “stirring up the people” (e.g. Paulus, Sententiae 5.22.1), and military desertion (e.g. Livy, Ab urbe condita 30.43.13). Moreover, some victims were crucified for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time as was the case with those captured while foraging for food during Titus' siege of Jerusalem (J.W. 5.447-49). One can thus imagine a number of ways that an individual may have met his or her end on a Roman cross, and there is simply too much counter-evidence and too little positive evidence to consider that participation in violent insurrection was a probable reason why Jesus was put to death.
My thanks to Brian for his time and expertise. Tune in tomorrow for more.